The other day a friend was encouraging Project GRACE to do a food collection, put out a box somewhere. When I mentioned the library had been doing that for us already for a long time, she was glad, but also genuinely surprised. She goes to the library often, but had never noticed the box by the bulletin boards. Sometimes the library is helping us collect school supplies, holiday presents for kids or new warm socks. Mostly the box is brimming with cans and boxes of food for the pantry. It was right there all the time, out in the open, but caught up in her own busy-ness, my friend didn’t see the opportunity.

The holiday season comes as the days are at their shortest and darkest; as the cold seeps in and takes hold, the holidays envelop us in the brightness of the hustle and bustle, the excitement of dashing about to check things off our lists, and the joy and anticipation of being reunited with our nearest and dearest. The holidays are exciting, feeding us, knitting us together, giving us the opportunity to be a part of something bigger, bolder, brighter.

Food drives are an impactful way you can support our community this holiday season. Our annual ‘Fixings Food Drive’, originally conceived to complement the Kiwanis Club’s annual gift of turkeys for the food pantry, is now part of a collaborative three-communities initiative with Scarborough, South Portland, and Cape Elizabeth. We’re joining forces again this year because the three pantries serving our three communities already work together to put food on the table for our neighbors. As part of the Drive, we’re gathering traditional ‘sides and fixings’ like cranberry sauce and gravy and stuffing as well as the nourishing pantry staples like soups and stews, proteins, vegetables and fruits, and so much more. Visit for dates and times or to give online.

At the holidays we are thankful for the bounty on our tables, we treasure our time with friends and family gathered ‘round to celebrate. But we also know some of us are lonely or hungry or looking for a way to connect. Like others, Project GRACE yearned to answer that need. We brought like-minded people together in a room through our “Food for Thought & Action” initiative, ultimately resulting in the first Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Project GRACE was a catalyst for the first dinner, and in subsequent years, a founding member of the collaborative that created and invested in the annual tradition. Like our partners at School Nutrition, Community Services, and Public Safety, we gladly contributed our time, treasure, and talent to give lift and a strong foundation for an event, now in its 8th year, that nourishes our community.

Mainers look out for their neighbors. We give. A new report from the personal finance web site put Maine near the top of the list of charitable states (our rank was #5!) and even higher (#2) when factoring in volunteering. We can see proof right here in our own neighborhoods. Look at the bounty under the holiday trees popping up all over town, collecting presents for children, warm hats and mittens, and more. Stand still for a moment, take in the warmth of friendly chatter of our neighbors at the many charity craft fairs, see how our neighbors transform a stitched or knitted this or that, a hand-crafted treasure or deliciously baked treat, into hard earned dollars for change and charity and community. Know that your favorite nonprofit(s) are grateful that you took the opportunity to donate to a #GivingTuesday or year-end appeal so that with your support they can continue to fulfill their missions for the greater good.

So much of the news of the world and closer to home is tragic beyond measure. It can weigh us down with shock, anger, fear, and anguish. Grief sits heavy in our hearts these days. There is a disturbing and persistent sharpness in our public voices that chafes at our ability to work together. But stop. All of that is outweighed by all the good that happens every day. The small kindnesses and acts of conscience and compassion add up, move us forward, and knit us together with common purpose. Our everyday actions of persistent good neighborliness are building a strong foundation for resilience. No matter what comes our way, we can lift the heavy load and go forward together. I see that hope nearly every day working for Project GRACE. And if you look about as you go about your every day, you can see it too. Don’t miss the opportunity. Find us online at to learn more.

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